A conference session called "Panel of the Dead" brings to mind an image of a long table populated by zombies, facing an eager crowd waving shotguns. However, the horror-film panel at SXSW this year was lively and no one tried to eat anyone else's brains, at least not in a literal sense. The big conference room was full and most people stayed in the room even after learning that Eli Roth (Hostel, Cabin Fever) was too ill to attend. (He was suffering from a virus, which inspired a lot of "flesh-eating disease" jokes. It was that kind of crowd.)

Panelists included Cinematical's Scott Weinberg, who watches more horror movies in a month than I ever will in my life; Scott Glosserman, who directed Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon; Lauren Moews, a producer on Cabin Fever and the recently announced Cabin Fever 2; Zev Berman, who co-wrote and directed Borderland, a horror movie premiering at SXSW; actor Rider Strong, who had lead roles in Borderland and in Cabin Fever; and Zack Carlson, who programs horror film events at Alamo Drafthouse such as Terror Thursdays. The panel was moderated by Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News, who also actively participated in the discussions about the horror genre.

Knowles started the session with a question about what he called "torture porn," the type of horror movie that features people being tortured in horrible ways, instead of being slaughtered quickly with a sledgehammer, axe or chainsaw. Although Saw was mentioned as an example, Weinberg argued that the film's attraction wasn't simply from scenes of torture. "Saw taps into some primal questions. What affected me was that I put myself in those characters' shoes."